Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Just Want To Be Where You Are

I just want to be where You are, dwelling daily in Your presence. I don't want to worship from afar. Draw me near to where You are.

I just want to be where You are, in Your dwelling place forever. Take me to the place where You are. I just want to be with You.

I want to be where You are,
dwelling in Your presence
feasting at Your table,
surrounded by Your glory.

In Your presence, that's where I always want to be...I just want to be with You.

Oh, my God, You are my strength and my song
And when I'm in Your presence though I'm weak, You're always strong.

I just want to be where You are, dwelling daily in Your presence.
I don't want to worship from afar. Draw me near to where You are.

~Don Moen

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Cleaning in the Heartland

I live in America's Heartland, the middle area of the United States, where we are enjoying a kaleidoscope of autumn color and the celebration of harvest and summer's end.

I "wake up" my house each morning by opening the windows to allow in a cleaning sweep of fresh cool breezes. Scented candles have been taken from storage, summer bouquets of fresh flowers are replaced by a bowl of fresh fruit. Fall cleaning and decluttering is scheduled so that when the winter cold and snows come, I am able to enjoy quiet activities out of clean, orderly rooms that are a blessing to enjoy.

Our hearts are classrooms where others soak up whatever we learn and live. Watching the life of Jesus through the eyes of the disciple, Matthew, this week has created a disgust at my messy classroom. It's time for fall cleaning and decluttering in the classroom of my heart. The woman I am is not the woman I could become if I tried harder to be like Jesus.

Father, I am opening up the the windows of my heart so You can let in the fresh air of new insights. Shine Your light around the classroom of my heart so I can see clearly old rusty habits, myths and false beliefs that should be thrown in the trash and broken places that should be mended. Show me the treasures that should be taken off the shelves and out of the file cabinets and given to others.

Would You light a candle of hope in me that shines brightly to all who have eyes to see? Would You replace what is dead in me with the fresh fruit of overflowing joy, abiding peace and strong gentleness?

Make my life a prayer to You, a sweet aroma that is welcoming and encouraging.

Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Teach Me to See


You are the God who sees. You walk alongside to surround me with protection, guidance, blessing and correction.

Help me to be the disciple who sees. I want to truly see others the way You see them, the way You see me.

Help me to see beyond ugliness of character and appearance, beyond wrong attitudes and habits, beyond angry responses and rejection, beyond crippling fears and pain.

If I am Your hands and feet, make me also Your eyes and ears. I want to be a woman after Your own heart, a breath of fresh air in this generation.

Teach me to see people with love and discernment: their hurts, their desires, their longings, their needs, their joys and their challenges. Prod me on to love and good works so I will offer whatever help and encouragement I have to give.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Living the Dream

My niece is incredibly bright and passionately focused on fulfilling the calling she was given in her youth. Working hard to change America for the better in political battle fields, she is both patient and diligent. Much of her time is spent going the extra miles, both physically and mentally, building momentum for change as she trains and equips people politically. She keeps her eyes on the big picture and she watches the details. She's very good at what she's been called to do for our country.

To many younger women, her life looks easy, ideal, enviable. They see her on television. She gets to travel to interesting places where she meets new people and gains new insights and creative thoughts. Her work is interesting, alive and exciting. She's beautiful and charming and married to her handsome college sweetheart.

While to the public eye her life looks enviable, to the private eye there is awareness of the sacrifices required. Risks and dangers await us in the world we're trying to change. Physical risks, certainly, but also mental, emotional and spiritual risks. There are personal sacrifices of loneliness, fatigue, disappointment and homesickness. To whom much is given, much will be required.

My niece is a treasure, Jesus says, in a jar of clay. So are you. To become the woman God has called you to be and to fulfill your own calling, you must be molded by the Master Potter and refined by the fire.

You are called to noble purpose. Live your dream and blend your passions with a passion for Him. Endure the stress of being molded and accept the refining fires. Be brave enough to make the sacrifices required in fulfilling your calling and living out God's dream for you.

Learning to Believe

Journal Entry: October, 2009, 6:45 am

Dear Father,

My heart is breaking for my new spiritual daughter. I don't know what else to tell her. She's such a new gift to me that I can't yet know all of the things You know about her. I don't know what verse I can share or what lesson I have learned that will break through her misery. She's searching for You so hard....her whole little life so far.

She's not finding You in the way that she seems to need to find You so that she knows for sure You are the God who sees her, loves her, forgives her and wants her and knows her.

Break through her walls of doubts and fear. Perfect her in Your love through my love for the sake of her love. The tears keep coming this morning, Father, and You know it's because she's been hurt so deeply by her aloneness. There's something she's not telling me yet or that I'm not yet understanding, but You know what is holding her back from a fullness of assurance in Your love.

I don't know what the future holds. I don't care how long we have to fight for her. We just will. Perfect love casts out fear. Help me to love her more perfectly so that she can find the way to Your love through my love. Teach me how to love her so I don't screw up what You're trying to teach her. Don't let me be afraid to love her with my whole heart. Make me perfect in my love even as You are perfect in Your love. Create in her a believing heart, a knowing heart, a broken and contrite heart, a heart overflowing with joy amidst pain.

Bummer, Father. We are so seriously late for class!


Email to me, sent from same daughter, October, 2010, 1:06 am

"God is love...There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

I have decided to believe Him.

~Never underestimate the power of praying for your spiritual daughters and simply walking alongside and loving them to the Father who waits for them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Vulture

~Because sometimes a little humor helps us to create better habits...

The vulture eats between his meals

And that's the reason why

He very, very rarely feels

As well as you and I.

His eye is dull, his head is bald,

His neck is growing thinner.

Oh, what a lesson for us all

To only eat at dinner.

Hillaire Belloc

Monday, October 25, 2010

Letter to a Little Woman

My dear child,

I have loved you since before you were born. I love you more than life itself and I want so much to watch you grow up in wisdom and stature, in the favor of God and man.

I am proud of you as I watch you grow because you are a person who is eager to do what is right. I see in you the compassion, gentleness and love of Jesus. You like learning to live out your life like Jesus did. You enjoy the wonders of plants and animals and rocks, all the things that God has made so intricately and beautifully to bless the earth.

I see you loving little children and wanting to be a good example for them, to protect and honor them. I see you admire your mom and dad, seeing many things in their character that you would like to learn as you grow. I see you play hard and run fast and jump high, making your body strong. I see you eating good food and drinking water and growing in your desire to be healthy.

You are brave and diligent, my darling. You are pretty and creative and musical and funny. You draw well and read well and learn easily. Take the gifts that God has given you and help them to blossom and bear good fruit in your life. Learn to be efficient and use your time wisely to accomplish much. Discover what to put in your mind and your life to make God pleased with your faithfulness.

Let me know when there are things we can do together that will help you. I’m always here for you and all my life I will pray daily for you and seek to show you what a woman can be and do. I’m grateful every day that God gave me your mother....and then you.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Will Offer Up My Life

I will offer up my life in spirit and truth,
Pouring out the oil of love as my worship to you.
In surrender I must give my every part.
Lord, receive the sacrifice of a broken heart.

Jesus, what can I give?
What can I bring to so faithful a Friend, to so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said?
What can be sung as a praise of Your name for the things You have done?
Oh, my words could not tell not even in part
of the debt of love to this thankful heart.

You deserve my every breath for You've paid the great cost
Giving up your life to death, even death on a cross.
You took all my shame away then defeated my sin,
Opened up the gates of heaven and have beckoned me in.

(Words and music by Matt Redman)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Welcome to Sabbath

Colours of day dawn into the mind. The sun has come up. The night is behind.
Good morning, my Father.

Thank you for hazelnut coffee steaming from my sunshine yellow mug. Thank you for my toast,warm and crisp, smeared with peanut butter. Thank you for sleepy eyes blinking awake to seek You. My bed was a warm safe place to snuggle while the music of crashing thunder and pouring rain surrounded me. Thank you for my quilt and the rainstorm.

Welcome to Sabbath, Child.

Today is a day to rest, to be with You and ponder and pray, to seek and to study, to rest and to refresh. I love Sabbath. Thank you for it.

But, Father, for those who are hungry both physically and spiritually, to those who are homeless and cold, longing for shelter from the rain, would you make it a good morning? For those who are in prison or surrounded by war, for those who are broken and sad and afraid...for those who cry alone aching for someone to love them, to show them the way to You...for the children who are lost, abused, being broken...

Do You see them? Won't You comfort them? Open the eyes of Your people to be Your hands and feet in every nation. Teach us to love with Your heart and to see with Your eyes.

Will you be poured out like wine upon the altar for me? Will you be broken like bread to feed the hungry? Would you be so one in Me that I can do just what I will? Will you be light and life and love, My word fulfill?

I will, Father. I will. Break my heart over the things that break Yours.

First, Sabbath. Then You will be ready to go back out into the world and be My breath of fresh air, My hands and feet. Do not be afraid. Do not be disheartened. I have overcome the world. I AM.

From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, Your name is worthy to be praised...tell me Your stories, Father. As I snuggle in my bed to rest, please won't You tell me Your stories?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Wish I Could

I wish I could help you as much as you've helped me.

I wish I could show you how you've made me a better person
just by being there for me, even if I was just being a big baby.

I wish I could be half the person that you are.

I wish I could be half as kind
and even a third as unconditionally loving.

I wish I could weave words the way you do.

I wish I could put smiles on even strangers' faces
just by the simple things I write the way you do.

I wish I could show you the sunrise and the beauty in this world
that you've opened my blind eyes to.

I wish I could be as beautiful as you.

Most of all, I wish I could make you happy the way you've done for me.

I wish I could...I hope I am something to you...

Because I look up to you as the Christ-loving Mother I never had.
and think of you as one of my best friends.

I hope I show you even an ounce of the love for life that you have shared.

I hope one day I can be your sunrise if you find yourself
caught in too much darkness.

Thank you, for being so beautiful and kind and wonderful.

And whether you know it or not,
thank you for being my mentor and my guardian and my sunrise.

~Marta Mackey

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Teach Me

Take my needs and teach me dependency.
Take my failures and teach me grace.
Take my pain and teach me compassion.
Take my fears and teach me faith.
Take my waits and teach me patience.
Take my storms and teach me trust.
Take my time and teach me reverence.
Take my deserts and teach me thirst.
~Beth Moore

Monday, October 18, 2010

Breath of Fresh Air

Jesus was a breath of fresh air. He was a companion who knew when to go for the challenge and when to rest with His followers.

I often find myself reacting to life rather than responding to it. It wears me down spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. Life doesn't have to become merely chaos management, a reaction to the tyranny of the urgent, but it's so easy to slide into that pit, isn't it?

Dallas Willard, one of the great thinkers of our day, wrote that "we have to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives." Easier said than done. For an entire year that was my motto, my resolution. I sought ways to slow myself down and simplify my life. It was one of the best and hardest things I have ever done for my wellbeing.

It turns out,though, that it's a lot like weeding a garden. You have to keep at it because it quickly gets away from you when you stop the diligence! So I'm working at it again, eliminating hurry and decluttering my life, my body, my house, my world. It's become an Autumn tradition to ready my life for the slowing down pace of winter. It's rather fun, actually, and something I eagerly anticipate each year after the long full days of summer.

Taking time to eliminate hurry daily, taking time to refresh and restore weekly, makes setting aside time yearly far less burdensome. It's been worth my struggle to learn good habits.

In the 23rd Psalm it says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures." It doesn't say He invites me or He encourages me or He lets me. It says, "He makes me". Sometimes He must lead me kicking and screaming into quiet green pastures to rest beside still waters for His namesake. Sad, huh? I've discovered that doing my work at a strong and steady pace helps me to enter into rest with a calm and welcome that was absent when I felt my work was always "way behind" and my world was full of chaos.

It shames me to say how often I have worked against having the very rest I needed and wanted the most. Things are different now because I'm trying to be a breath of fresh air in my generation every day. Instead of answering the question, "How are you?" with I'm fine or I'm tired or I'm busy....I'm trying a different answer on for size and finding it fits pretty well.

"You know, I'm rested this week. I've eaten good food. I'm enjoying my time in the Word. My relationships are healthy and I'm enjoying people. I'm doing my work in a passionate and efficient way."

I like feeling strong and ready for each day. Like all of us, my work falls behind, sickness or lack of a good night of sleep happens. None of us will ever "have it all together". It is, however, possible to learn the quiet rhythms of a graceful life. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. It makes it much easier to be a breath of fresh air in a dying, hurting world.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Listening Lord

Lord, when my soul is weary
And my heart is tired and sore,

And I have that failing feeling
That I can't take it any more;

Then let me know the freshening found
In simple childlike prayer,

When the kneeling soul knows surely
That a listening Lord is there.

~Ruth Bell Graham

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bless the Lord!

O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I'll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don't forget a single blessing!

He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you're always young in his presence.

God makes everything come out right;
he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
not easily angered, he's rich in love.
He doesn't endlessly nag and scold,
nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn't treat us as our sins deserve,
nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
keeps in mind that we're made of mud.
Men and women don't live very long;
like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
leaving nothing to show they were here.
God's love, though, is ever and always,
eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
as they follow his Covenant ways
and remember to do whatever he said.

God has set his throne in heaven;
he rules over us all. He's the King!
So bless God, you angels,
ready and able to fly at his bidding,
quick to hear and do what he says.
Bless God, all you armies of angels,
alert to respond to whatever he wills.
Bless God, all creatures, wherever you are—
everything and everyone made by God.
And you, O my soul, bless God!

Psalm 103 (The Message)

A David Psalm

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Facebook Fasting

Nearly every week I get a call, text or email sharing a similar heartache. Someone has a heart prick and discovers a need to eliminate or cut back their use of Facebook. Eyes have been opened to lost time and hurtful words.

So much good happens on Facebook that temptations are usually subtle or even completely hidden. The internet is the modern way that women easily go from house to house stirring up discontent and dissention, sharing in gossip and spreading bad very often without any wrong intention at all. The evil one doesn't need to make us choose blatant sin...all he has to do is distract us from what we are called to do.

Oh, Father, cause us to ache deeply when we become women who use words unwisely. Teach us to have words that are full of grace and seasoned with salt. Make us creative with words that are apples of gold in settings of silver. Inspire us to prod one another on to love and good works.

Won't You give us pure hearts that overflow with Your Words? We want so much to be women that encourage one another with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. We want to be women who are exactly what You had in mind when You created women.

Out of our hearts our mouths will speak so we will increase the time we use Your Words and decrease the time we use empty words.

Are there ways to use the tools of our generation to cause an increase in our passion, purity and purpose? Women are resourceful and creative creatures. What could we change?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reasons to Praise

To enthrone God and acknowledge his greatness Ps 95:1-5

To increase our awareness of God’s presence Ps 103

To have the joy of the Lord Ps 30

To acknowledge God’s hand in every area of our lives Ps 91

To release God’s power into our situations Ps 144

To know God Better Ps 50:23

To break our chains of bondage and bring deliverance Ps 50:14-15

To be under God’s covering of safety and protection Ps 95:6,7

To strengthen the soul and be transformed Ps 138:1-3

To receive guidance and establish God’s purposes Ps 16:7-11

To thwart the devil’s plans for our destruction Ps 92

To dissipate doubt and increase faith Ps 27

To be delivered from fear Ps 34

To bring a fresh flow of his Holy Spirit in us Ps 40

To possess all that God has promised for us Ps 147

Teach Us to Stand Strong

O God, You have given us life through Your Son, Jesus Christ. You have given us the security of faith in a world that longs for something on which to rely. We thank You for Your gifts to us.

Teach us to stand strong for Your Kingdom:
to be free in this world in order to be Christ's men and women.

Help us to know Your love and the love of each other. Set us free to become our true selves because we are loved, and to free others because we love.

Give us enough tests to make us strong;
enough vision and endurance to follow Your way;
enough patience to persist when the going is difficult;
enough of reality to know our weaknesses;
and enough humility to know these gifts come from You.

Go before us to prepare the way; walk behind us to be our protection; and walk beside us to be our companion, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

~Richard Langford

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fishers of Men

I have a new friend. She’s envious of what Christians share in the Body of Jesus and she wants what we have. In theory. She’s not so sure she wants the commitments and inconveniences. She’s not at all sure she’s interested in the “denying yourself and taking up your cross” part. For now, it’s enough for me to know she's interested in spiritual things. Fishing takes time and patience.

It's easy to forget what it takes to be a good fisherman. We become militant about issues, loudly debating our beliefs. We spend hours discussing and studying new methods, analyzing how we should be evangelizing. We toss out catchy phrases, startling questions and comments, hoping to hook someone’s heart for Jesus.

If we want to catch fish, don’t we need to have a quiet peaceful setting? Don’t we need to put aside some of the talking and studying, analyzing, the debating?

Dare we simply toss the hook into the waters? Don’t we need to spend time encouraging the fish to eat and letting them know we are a source of food?

My new friend is disillusioned by Christians even while she is envious of their love for one another. She has been told she’s going to hell. She's been given countless books and tracts to read, visited a huge number of denominations and divisions. Decades of searching for truth and praying for peace have yielded her rejection and pain from the very ones who knew of love and mercy.

She is overwhelmed by my love for her, surprised that someone would take the time to meet her where she is and accept her in her sins and doubts. I assure her that I am not rare, that many are busy doing the same things the First Century Church did. I confess our sins and weaknesses, our lack of compassion. I explain that in America it is so easy to talk the talk, to get busy and impatient.

Buddism offered methods that gave her the strength to continue searching for God in a dying world, but it couldn't offer grace. Only Jesus can. Sitting here in the quiet, heart to heart with brothers and sisters who also would love her and meet her where she is, I can share with you that I am sad.

We are called to be fishers of men. Sometimes, all fishing requires is to be still, to sit and share the beauty of God's world with someone, having quiet simple talks away from the noise and fray of the exhausting world.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Decluttering My Life

I don't know about you, but cooling Autumn breezes motivate me to declutter. Before I discovered the Flylady, I didn't even use the word, "declutter". Now each year I enjoy the challenge to observe my surroundings and my inner life and consider what I should get rid of before the arrival of quieter, shorter days of winter.

Car. House. Body. Schedule. Heart...The list goes on and on, but what usually happens is that even without total success in my ambition to declutter, a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing is the result. Perhaps the most helpful lesson has been learning to see the value of a simplified, orderly life.

Rather than chaos management, my world becomes a better blending of tranquility and purpose. Rather than being surrounded by clutter that discourages me and wakes me up to hopeless frustration, a well ordered life and home wake me up with contentment and possibilities.

I waited too long to give God everything that I am and all that I have, the whole mess of my life, but once I did He filled my life with simplicity, wonder and order....and those things resulted in an overflowing of joy and abiding peace.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Liam, God and Me

Photo by Sharon Lownote
Liam is not quite three years old.

His first slow climb up the "tall tall big big really tall slide" takes every ounce of his courage. He keeps a tight grasp on his mother's hand as he carefully steps up the ladder.

He must hold my hand before he dares to slide down. Each turn down the slide brings greater courage and adventure. No matter how tightly he grips my hand for reassurance and support, he is thrilled to be doing it "all by himself".

Liam laughs hard when we see older children shimmy hand over hand, legs swinging, across the monkey bars. They laugh and jump and run. Kerri lifts Liam high onto the bars. As he struggles to shimmy hand over hand, legs swinging, his eyes are wide awake to the wonder of this incredible moment. What looked impossible is possible!

Safe in her grasp, his little arms trembling from the endurance, he focuses determined eyes on my face. His grin widens and his eyes shine as he whispers, "I'm doing it! I'm doing it!" He jumps into my arms for a tight hug. He has accomplished the impossible all by himself.

A heavenly Father watches me grow and learn with eyes full of love. I focus my determined eyes on Him. "Look at me, Father! I'm doing it! I'm doing it!" I bubble over with joy as I live courage in life adventures. I am learning to be wide awake to the wonder of incredible moments.

I love the word impossible.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Taking Time for Tea

Most people don't seem to find buried treasure at Starbucks, but today as I sat in the sunshine under a table umbrella with two of my kindred spirits, Carol and Lynn, I found treasure.

We don't settle for simply wanting to get together for tea or suggesting we get together for tea; we actually make it happen. It's not all that easy to juggle our schedules and find a time, but we choose to do it. It's important. It makes us better women, more contented women, more effective women.

Laughter alternates with tears and tales of good times blend with stories of tough times. We share it all because shared lives are richer lives. We give each other different perspectives and creative thoughts about what it all means. And we take time to just sit and enjoy one another.

My friends are excellent company and that's a treasure more precious than gold.

The world moves too fast. We're all too busy. But it's just not okay when we become too busy for taking time for tea with friends.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Singing in the Rain

“You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later on.” ~John 13:7

“Instead of your shame you will have a double portion.”~Isaiah 61:7

I would love to sit down with you over a cup of tea, share our stories and pray together! My teacup is presently a sunshine yellow mug of Vanilla Tea, if you really want to know. Want a bite of my cinnamon toast? (The cool thing about imaginary bites – no calories, no spreading germs!)

I am enjoying the rain and soothing jazz as I write, but the rain and dark clouds will settle around some of you unpleasantly, reminders of your losses and pain.

I fought the blues all weekend because of a medication I am on. Tough stuff, the blues. The focus goes inward and the evil one zings darts and the mind becomes exhausted from worry, doubts and fears. My faith had to fight continual battles to stay focused on others and to keep my mind dwelling on God’s Word, worship songs and good things.

I don’t always understand what Father is doing in my life, but I know He has a purpose in the tough times. My life matters to Him, to His purposes. I know that I am forgiven and that my shame is gone. All of my sin is removed as far as the east is from the west because I am His beloved child. I know what I am called to do and I know I walk by faith not sight.

Still, taking every thought captive and staying true to my purpose and passion takes a lot of determination and spunk when I'm feeling blue. I won victory over my weekend of blues. It was a tough fight, but joy comes and today I am discovering a season of refreshing.

What I learned is this: Getting up every day with purpose and living out each day passionately is a reward in itself. There’s more value to life, and at the end of the day, there’s accomplishment and fulfillment. Jesus lived wholeheartedly and we should follow his example.

Everything God does is with purpose and passion. That’s how I must live my life, too – with purpose and passion. Even when I’m fighting the blues. Even when I’m tired. Even when I’m having a bad day.

Taking responsibility for how you live is a brave thing. It takes courage to take life as it comes and to be determined to make the most we can of it.

Stay alert. Stand true. Pray hard. Love deep. Finish strong.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Walking the Marriage Road

On my wedding day, over three decades ago, I believed with all my heart that I loved my husband. With the optimism and daring of youth, we set off down the yellow brick road of life.

Among our treasury of wisdom we collected these two gems: The closer a couple grows to God, the closer they grow to one another. Commitment means never even thinking the word divorce.

The road has been like many winding Missouri roads with smooth stretches covered in lovely scenery to take your breath away. Detours, potholes, sharp curves and dangers have been waiting just around the bends. Walking peacefully, sometimes running in terror, often puzzled and confused, we continue our journey over new ground and back trails.

The years have changed us. I understand now that I had no idea what love was on my wedding day. I was looking at my husband with dream filled eyes, settling for handsome and kind, a man who longed to be godly someday.

The true measure of a man is his faithfulness to God through the years. His character appears through his willingness to follow Jesus as he leads his family down life’s road, come what may. It takes a few years to learn such things.

One night there was a homicide in our neighborhood. A man was randomly shot and killed in the place where my husband had been peacefully walking our beagle, Katie, just hours before. In the short time it took for a bullet to go from a gun to a heart, another wife became a widow. It could have been me.

We do not know what lies in the road before us. We walk by faith and not by sight. Marriage grows strong through the optimism and daring of steadfast commitment, not of youth.

The closer we each get to God, the closer we are to one another. As we travel along the often dangerous cliffs of aging, I understand commitment more each day. God is faithful to keep His promises and loving toward all He has made. It's a worthwhile promise to emulate along the marriage road.

We are breaking ground as we travel along together, pioneers in many of our ministries and opportunities. Wise advise proves itself true as the decades slide past. Training ourselves to be closer to God brings us continually closer to one another. Commitment and love come through practice.

Robert Frost penned, in his poem, “The Road Not Taken”:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Last Letter to Grandma

Dearest Grandma,

I was working in my garden this morning when Daddy called to say you’d left us and gone home. I felt such an overwhelming relief and joy for you mingled in my grief. You’ve wanted to leave this earth for such a long time now.

At one of our tea parties, you laughed and said that Grandpa might forget who you were if you didn’t get to heaven soon. Remember? Yes, you’ll remember. Your memory has returned now. You remember being a girl and a pesky little sister. You remember when you made your first cake for Grandpa and he came in and ate it all in one sitting before you even got a chance to put the icing on it. You remember being a mother and becoming a grandmother and great grandmother and great-great grandmother. What a lot of memories must be coming back to you today!

Look at all of us, Grandma. You did good. You made such a difference in the world by being here and praying for us every night. You told me that we shouldn’t be sad when you died. You said that it was a grandma and grandpa’s job to teach us how to live, but now that we’re grown it was your job to teach us how to die. You told me to remember all of the people that you love who are in heaven already and to be thankful that you were getting to visit with them again after so many years of missing them.

I’ll remember that you’re rejoicing today with all of those who greeted you as you entered heaven’s gates. You’ve always loved a grand adventure and this is the grandest one of all! I miss you and I’m sad. Just like you said I would be. But I’ll see you again and someday I’ll get to meet all of the people you were looking forward to being with again. Just tell them when you saw me I was on my way.

I guess this is my last letter, the last in a very big stack of letters. I can’t enclose flower petals, autumn leaves or pictures like I usually do, but I’m sure you have plenty of beautiful things to look at in Heaven and lots of things to trigger happy memories. I guess I will just sign this letter the way I have signed my letters to you for decades now.

I love you. I’ll see you soon.

Karen Joy

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Digging in the Dirt

I grappled with the decision for nearly a year before ending a friendship. I knew it wasn’t in my own best interest to continue, but because I had failed to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, I hesitated to give up all chances to try and reach my friend.

His soil was rocky, hard and filled with spiritual diseases. I wanted to tend the soil and prepare the ground for seeds, but the good I did was far outweighed by my inability to stand strong and alert in his presence. If only I had known a better way to get through to him.

"Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." ~Romans 16:17-21

Even though the harvest is not mine to control, it was my job to plant seeds and nurture them in the life of my friend. Instead I was swayed by my insecurities and lack of experience, tempted by his smooth talk and confused by obstacles and divisions.

I wanted to be light, to be salt, to be a lamb that roars, to be music in his life. I wanted to make his mountains less steep and his valleys less dark, but I just couldn't figure out how to do it. Is there a burden heavier than failing a lost friend?

Oh, Father, I want to be a woman after Your own heart. I want to be bubbling over with joy and love the people that come my way. Season my life with salt and fill my words with grace. Give me a pure heart and clean hands so that I am strong enough to tug the lost from out of the pit and back onto solid ground without getting so much mud all over myself.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Praying the Scriptures

To pray the scriptures, choose a verse from the Bible and then pray it over yourself or someone else:

Put people in _____ life who will gently instruct him.
Grant him repentance leading to knowledge of the truth.
Cause him to come to his senses and
escape from the trap of the devil who has taken him captive to do his will.

Open _____ eyes and turn him from darkness to light,
and from the power of Satan to God, so that he may receive forgiveness of sins
and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ.

Thank you for loving our family so much that you gave your only Son,
that when we believe in Him we will not perish but have eternal life.

I pray that we would continue to live in Christ, rooted and built up in Him,
strengthened in the faith as we were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.

Count ______ as one of your people and be his God.
Give him a singleness of heart and action so that
he will always fear you for his own good and for the good of his children.
Make an everlasting covenant with him.
Never stop doing good to him
and inspire him to fear you so that he will never turn away from you.

Put a new spirit in us, Lord. Remove our hearts of stone.
Cause us to follow your decrees and keep your laws.
Let us know that we belong to you and that you are our God.

I pray that our home will be rooted and established in love,
and that we may have power together with all the saints to grasp
how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know
this love that surpasses all understanding, that we may be filled to the
measure of all the fullness of God.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Walking With Father

It's been fun walking with You today.

Did you know before the foundation of the world that we would go for a nature walk?

Did you plan for the sunshine twinkling on the lake and the cool breeze blowing through my hair? Did you tell the turtles to sun on the rocks so I would see them? Did you whisper to the butterflies and send them my way?

I'm just asking beause those are the sorts of things I would like to do if I planned a nature walk with a daughter.

Did you plan for us to be spontaneous and stop at the new neighborhood coffee shop? Did you tell the young waitress to give me free coffee? Was it You that arranged for there to be only one raspberry filled donut left? Did You make sure it would be sugar sprinkled, not powdered, not glazed, not iced, since that's my favorite?

My daughters don't know everything I do for them. They only know I love them and that I'm walking alongside. I don't know everything You do for me. I only know You love me.

Thank you for Your love. Thank You for the surprises You tuck into the corners of every day just to bless me and remind me that You're there....walking alongside.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Little Flowers

One day in late autumn I went for a long walk in the woods to say goodbye to my favorite spots before the oncoming of winter. Much of nature was already headed to bed and the woods had taken on a lonely and empty appearance so different from the abundance of shades of green, dotted with wild flowers that had been blessing my walks since early spring.

It gave me a melancholy feeling because I knew that, though I loved winter, I would miss my walks in the woods. Discovering a weed that was still dark green and thriving despite the cooling weather, I saved a sprig to take home with me.

For two months, transplanted to an antique bottle on my kitchen windowsill, it brightened the window above my kitchen sink. Like all of America, the orchard outside my window was covered with sparkling snow. In America we were surviving our coldest winter on record.

Most of the plant life was buried deep beneath the snow, dormant until spring, and yet one little sprig boldly continued to grow.

Without my ever even noticing, a bud on my weed grew to fruition and became a little orange flower. It just appeared there one day, delicate and soft, beautiful in its uniqueness. I began to ponder why such wonderful things happen to bless us and fill our lives with joy. God goes to an awfully lot of trouble sometimes just to hold on to our hearts and keep us tender toward him. The details of our lives matter deeply to him.

Someday I will be like that little flower. Father and I will keep tending to the details of my life. I will keep on walking by faith and not by sight and suddenly, to my surprise, along my walk I will discover that He has taken me, a worthless bruised weed, and turned me into a precious flower, delicate and soft, beautiful in my uniqueness.